Notwithstanding their continuing assertion of broader Left unity elsewhere, both CPI(M) and CPI are now locking horns in a pitched battle in the country’s tiniest Lok Sabha constituency, Lakshadweep, to ensure at least a small foothold of their own. This constituency comprising ten diverse islands with hardly 44,000 voters is the only one where the prominent Left parties are fighting each other even though the main contenders represent the Congress and the NCP.
“Unlike in the case of Kerala and West Bengal, no formal Left front exists here. The CPI is entering electoral politics in this island constituency for the first time now and its local unit is about to evolve into a fullest form. It comprises just a bunch of our own former members and sympathisers, who were expelled for engaging in anti-party activities,” alleges Lukmanul Hakeem, chief electoral agent of CPI(M) candidate Dr Abdul Muneer, who has already started a high-pitch campaign across the islands.
Meanwhile, CPI’s candidate A Najmudheen expresses confidence that the election would prove that the Left party has clout over the electorate here. “This is the second time CPI(M) is fighting the Lok Sabha election and Mr. Hakeem was its candidate last time. He was able to bag just 250 votes last time. We are confident that our party can ensure a formidable fight against Congress’s sitting MP Hamdullah Sayeed,” says Mr. Najmudheen.
Son of late union minister and former MP, P. M. Sayeed, Mr. Hamdullah is confident of an easy walkover this time also despite presence of the two Left parties.
“It is a traditional Congress citadel and AICC president Sonia Gandhi addressed a mammoth party convention here just ahead of the declaration of elections. Following footsteps of my father, I have initiated a lot of developmental activities in the constituency and they will definitely reward me,” said Mr. Hamdullah, a lawyer by profession, and the youngest member of the just dissolved Lok Sabha. His main rival this time is Mohammed Faisal of NCP.
Except for 2004 when P.P. Koya of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) defeated Mr. Sayeed, the constituency was with Congress. Mr. Sayeed held a Guinness Book record for having been elected to Parliament ten times in a row. Mr. Koya was defeated in the next election after he joined NCP. Though small in size, the islands register high turnout of voters and last time it was 85.36 percent. Mr Faisal is hopeful that NCP chief Sharad Pawar would campaign for him this time. National parties BJP, Samajwadi Party and Janatha Dal (U) have already declared that they would field candidates in Lakshadweep.
Dr. Muneer, who had already won wider acceptance as a social worker and socially committed medical practitioner, focuses on the young and educated voters, many of whom were educated in Kerala and trained in politics by CPI(M)’s student wing SFI. Among the ten islands, Androth, Kavaratty and Minicoy are known as traditional Congress strongholds while Kalpeni, Kiltan and Ameni are pro-NCP. Androth, Minicoy, Kavaratty and Ameni are the larger islands while Bitra has just 175 voters.